NHL Team Drops Prospect Over His Actions as a Teen

Arizona Coyotes ditch Mitchell Miller after report about abuse of Black classmate with disabilities
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2020 9:00 AM CDT
Updated Nov 1, 2020 6:44 AM CST
What He Did as 8th-Grader Costs Him Shot at NHL Team
   (Getty/Hemera Technologies)

Three weeks ago, the Arizona Coyotes selected an 18-year-old freshman at the University of North Dakota in the NHL draft. On Thursday, the team renounced its rights to Mitchell Miller after an Arizona newspaper detailed the abuse case he was involved in as an 8th-grader in Sylvania, Ohio. The details:

  • The abuse: The Arizona Republic detailed it earlier this week. At the age of 14, Miller and a classmate admitted in juvenile court that they tricked a Black classmate with developmental disabilities into eating a candy push-pop they wiped in a urinal. The victim had to be tested for hepatitis and STDs, though the tests came back clean. Police say the pair also punched and kicked the teen, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.
  • Long-running: The report, based on interviews with other classmates, says Miller taunted and abused Meyer-Crothers for years, calling him "brownie" and "n-----." From Meyer-Crothers: "In junior high, I got beat up by him. He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn't want to do. ... Everyone thinks he's so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don't see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life."

  • Reaction: After the newspaper's report came out, the team initially stood by its pick, notes ESPN, saying it was aware of the behavior but willing to give Miller a second chance. But as the incident ricocheted around social media and gained traction nationally, the Coyotes dropped Mitchell. "We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family," says a team statement. "What we learned does not align with the core values and vision for our organization."
  • An explanation, an apology: Miller had sent a letter to each NHL team prior to the draft regarding his history. After the story came out, he released this apology, which ESPN notes does not contain a direct apology to Meyer-Crothers, via the Coyotes: "I am extremely sorry about the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 while I was in eighth grade. I was young, immature, and feel terrible about my actions." He has not commented since Arizona dropped him.
  • Not celebrating: “The whole thing is a sad, sad story all the way around," the mother of Meyer-Crothers, Joni, tells the Toledo Blade. "We are not jumping and cheering at all." She says she didn't want to destroy Mitchell's career but wrote a letter to the Coyotes and spoke to the Republic for its initial report because her family had never received a direct apology from Miller and didn't think he had shown remorse.
  • Miller's father: “Our family is in shock,” John Miller tells the Blade. "Our first priority is our son’s well-being."
  • Now what? Miller is committed to playing for the University of North Dakota for the next year, and the school says it wants to help him become a better person as well as player, per CNN. In terms of the NHL, he is now a free agent, but whether other teams will take a chance on the defenseman is unclear.
  • The debate: Lots of people are wondering how the Coyotes and other hockey organizations embraced Miller (at least initially), but plenty of others argue he was just a kid who made mistakes. Ken Campbell of Sports Illustrated assesses. "Miller might never play a game in the NHL for the Arizona Coyotes or any other team," he writes. "Then again, he might buck the odds of a fourth-round pick and become a star someday. ... For some people, though, he will never be able to escape the ignominy of being the person who did terrible things to a Black, mentally disabled kid. Whether or not he ever plays in the NHL, he’s going to have to live with that."
(More NHL stories.)

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